From end to end, the state of Yucatán stands out because of its colors, aromas, and rich culture based on legendary traditions, which have culminated in a great culinary heritage. During Yucatán’s “green gold (Henequén or sisal) era,” there were up to 1,170 haciendas. Many of them featured eclectic architecture that combined neo-baroque, classic, neo-Gothic, with neoclassical touches, and even some references to medieval civil architecture.
The central buildings, where the habitable areas of the haciendas were concentrated, were colloquially known as “Cascos,” and were distinguished by their large corridors, huge windows, and spacious halls.
To date, around 400 old hacienda Cascos remain standing. Fortunately for us, some constructions have been recently restored to serve as unique event halls, hotels, and restaurants; of the latter, though many specialize in regional cuisine, the variety is wide. The truth is that any meal takes on a special kind of flavor when enjoyed in the majesty of these constructions, their wonderful gardens, and an atmosphere that will take you back in time. Here are some options you can try for yourself.
At Misné, which also functions as a hotel, a quality a la carte menu is served, prepared by chef Freddy Briceño. The staff is particularly careful with their processes, as with the cooking of the Tikin Xic fish, which is marinated with a red “Kuux” seasoning with lard and cooked over charcoal for up to five hours.
For breakfast, they have the “Loch” egg: a fried-egg sandwich with Panucho tortillas, served with a cream of avocado and charred tomato.
An appetizer that you will only find here is the fried plantain served on a timbale of ground meat and olives, covered with Edam cheese au gratin. The “Pollo a la Mestiza” is another of chef Briceño’s creations, filled with cream of Chaya (a local spinach), wrapped in bacon, and cooked with a plantain leaf to present with a few drops of green pepper sauce.
For dessert, do not miss out on their traditional candied papaya with crunchy Dutch cheese or the guava paste with grated coconut.
Santo Domingo de Yunkú
Centuries ago, in the Sacalum community, the Santo Domingo Hacienda was founded on top of the hill. Its privileged location gives it a unique panoramic view of the town of Yunkú, where a small orchard that produces cucumber, cilantro, and radish has been installed.
Chef Cristina Acereto, who learned traditional cooking from her grandmother, has been working at this place for over two years.
Some of the options that you really shouldn’t miss when you visit include the refried beans cooked over wood, or the lime soup whose flavors never fail to satisfy. The house’s special dish is made with locally-grown rabbit, marinated with red seasoning and cooked over charcoal. Other essentials are the Pibil chicken and the char-grilled Poc Chuc; the delicious tortillas of the panuchos are made and cooked on the comal right there.
For dessert, you can savor the Caballero Pobre, which is bread soaked in milk and egg, fried, and bathed in a delicious mixture of sugar and cinnamon: think of it as a local version of French toast.
Located between the towns of Acanceh and Seyé, Hacienda Yabucú is home to Los Almendros restaurant, led by local cooks and chefs who inherited their knowledge and sensitivity from their ancestors. Chef Mariela Giselle Aguilar Nah supervises the team, who use slow cooking methods over a wood fire, in the oven, on the Comal (griddle), on the grill, in a double boiler, deep-fried, and with sauces made in a molcajete.
The specialty dishes here are made with white-tailed deer meat, which is native to the region. This includes the Tostada de Tsíik de Venado de Chemax or the spice-cooked venison, served with K’ool (white sauce) with squash seeds and achiote.
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Ticum (or Xcum) is the place of the Maya god of air. The hacienda was built by hand in 1891 using giant stone molds and mortars. Today, the kitchen team at Hacienda Ticum, led by chef Cristian Martinez and his sous-chef Margarita Chuc, showcases their passion for traditional Yucatecan cuisine with a clever international vision.
The menu is very versatile, including popular Yucatecan dishes with contemporary twists, ranging from classics like Papadzules with Longaniza to a salmon with teriyaki-style sauce. The standout dish is the salmon with cilantro cream, made with the local species of cilantro, which is sure to delight any diner’s palate.
To the south of Merida, in the town of Abalá, stands an old French-style hacienda with Arab influences. Mucuyché, which means “wooden dove,” is surrounded by Ramón, cedar, lime, frangipani, mamey, soursop, and citrus trees that fill the view with greenery and the air with delicious aromas, not to mention the significant number of animal species that shelter among them.
But let’s talk about their food. Here, the Relleno Negro made with turkey meat is a must-try gem, and once a week, the Cochinita Pibil becomes the star dish. Another recommendation is the “Plato de Longaniza Mucuyché,” an original creation by Chef Weymar Chuc Canul, made with meticulous supervision using his own recipe for sausage.
Hacienda Santa Cruz
At the beautiful Hacienda Santa Cruz, founded in 1640, Chef Pedro May leads a team of young and enthusiastic cooks. Using charcoal grilling and underground ovens, this team adapts recipes and teachings from the past to serve in their two dining areas: the Terraza Victoria and the flagship restaurant, Valentina.
Some of their favorite ingredients include Chicharrón (pork rinds), venison, beans, honey, and many more. This very local selection undoubtedly gives rise to creations with plenty of flavor. The star dish is the pork shank in three-chile sauce, but they offer special dishes on weekends that are also very much worth trying. They have their own small garden and strive to ensure that most of their ingredients are organic and local, ensuring sustainability in each dish.
Undoubtedly the pioneer when it comes to restaurant haciendas, Hacienda Teya has been providing diners with a traditional Yucatecan food experience in a unique atmosphere for several decades now. While its two restaurants in Mérida combine typical ingredients and dishes with modern preparations and presentations, Hacienda Teya, located on the road to Cancun, continues to do what it has done best since the 1980s: top-notch local cuisine. If you’re visiting with a large (or hungry) party, an option to consider is their Nohoch Tun, which combines three traditional dishes: Cochinita Pibil, Poc Chuc, and Lomitos de Valladolid. What you definitely shouldn’t miss out on, though, is their candied papaya with Edam cheese: it doesn’t matter if you’ve already tried it elsewhere, Hacienda Teya’s is one of a kind.
By Juan Pablo González Negrete
Communicologist by profession and marketing amateur. I was born in white Mérida and I love to enjoy the pleasures of life…A bon vivant!
Photography by the mentioned haciendas, and Yucatán Today for use in Yucatán Today.
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